Psalm 25:3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame.
Psalm 66:5 Come and see what God has done: He is awesome in His deeds toward the children of man.
I have finally found enough time to sit down and type out Nora’s birth story. It’s kind of long but I’ve been dreaming about this day for over two years and I don’t want to forget any of the details. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was scheduled to be induced on Monday, July 20th, so I went in on Sunday to have some last minute blood work done to get all the blood ready for Nora in case she needed it on Monday. I had a huge to do list for that Sunday, so I was anxious to get back to the Ronald McDonald House after the blood work. I actually had saved things to do until that day so that I could be busy and have something to do instead of worry about the induction. My hospital bag wasn’t completely packed, I desperately needed a shower, the boys’ big brother shirts weren’t set out, cameras were not charged or ready, I needed to go to the grocery store and do laundry. My parents had just arrived the night before from Alabama and were planning on moving into the Ronald McDonald House that day. While I was having blood work done my dad and Josh decided at the last minute to take the boys to a Houston Astros baseball game that started at 1:00.
I was kind of surprised when I got to the hospital because they started checking me in and wanted me to put a hospital gown on. I told them I wasn’t staying, I was just having blood work done so they said I didn’t have to put the gown on, but they were required to hook me up to the monitor while I was waiting to have my blood drawn. As usual, I had a couple contractions while on the monitor. I had actually had a lot of intense contractions (about every 8 minutes) the night before but they had settled down some. When I had the contractions on the monitor, though, I noticed that Nora’s heart rate slowed down a lot. It was unlike her to get stressed out with a contraction. We’ve had many NSTs (which show contractions and the baby’s heart rate) over the past few months and Nora has never had any problem handling my frequent contractions. I felt kind of concerned. The nurse came in and said she had noticed the decelerations as well and was going to tell the doctor. “You might be having this baby sooner than you think!” she said brightly. WHAT?! I was NOT prepared and Josh had just left for a baseball game! The doctor came in and said he was not sure why Nora’s heart was slowing down but it is usually a sign of distress. He said the cord could be wrapped around her neck, she could be anemic and weak or the placenta might not be functioning properly anymore. All of those options sounded scary to me so that definitely made me want to get her out as soon as possible. The doctor said he was going to contact Dr. Moise and see what he thought we should do. He did not want to send me home if Nora was in any danger so he said I would probably be spending the night while on the monitor and still be induced the next morning.
I was admitted and moved up to my room in labor and delivery and was kind of surprised when I saw this sign:
Happy Birthday Nora?! I couldn’t believe that it might actually be her birthday. It was always July 20th in my mind. My nurse came in and said that the blood bank had called and said they already had all of the blood prepared for Nora in case she needed a transfusion after birth. They had decided to go ahead and start the induction since the blood was ready and there was no point in waiting until the morning. I texted Josh and told him to leave the baseball game as soon as possible because Nora was coming early! This was actually a secret dream of mine ever since I was induced with Liam at 41 weeks and then Asher (also at 41 weeks) and then Lucy. I always wanted to go into labor on my own and have that feeling of “Surprise! We’re having a baby NOW.” Well, I got to experience it with my Nora.
My regular OB, who was supposed to deliver Nora, was on his way back from vacation and wouldn’t be arriving until the following morning (when Nora was scheduled to be born.) I was sad that he wouldn’t be delivering her. I never saw the doctor on call who was supposed to deliver Nora. The nurse started me on pitocin to get the contractions going and they checked to see how dilated I was- 4 centimeters. Josh showed up a little while later and they broke my water. We were so excited and happy, it felt like the best Christmas day ever. I didn’t even mind the pain, I savored all of it.
After about 3 hours in labor they checked me again and I was only 5 centimeters, which was kind of discouraging. I was going to wait until the contractions were unbearable before getting an epidural but the nurse said there was really no point in waiting (unless I just wanted to.) I did remember that with Asher it had taken me a long time to get to about 5 or 6 centimeters and then the last few happened FAST and he started crowning before the doctor was even in the room. I’m so glad the nurse convinced me to get the epidural when she did because things did happen quickly after that. The epidural was so wonderful, the warmth of the pain leaving my abdomen was heavenly. I could still feel all the pressure with the contractions, but no pain. The whole time I was laboring we could hear Nora’s heart rate decelerating with my contractions but the nurses did not seem very concerned. They said it’s ok if her heart rate goes down with the contraction but if it goes down right after the contraction it’s a bad sign. Nora’s was going down with most of the contractions but sometimes it would drop after the contraction.
After the epidural was in place and I could rest a bit I started feeling very emotional. Every single time I had envisioned this day over the past two and a half years I had cried, overwhelmed by the weight of it- the weight of the joy and redemption that would come with a living baby, and the weight of sadness at the memory of my dead baby girl. I cried for Lucy and for all the women who have had to labor and give birth to a silent baby. There could be one right down the hall from me at that very moment for all I knew. I cried with relief that we had made it to this day and she still had a heart beat. Her heart beat brought me out of my emotional bog and back into the moment. Her heart was dropping dangerously low as my contractions increased in strength and frequency. The nurse tried adjusting my position, helping me roll from side to side, hoping it would help. It didn’t really. She tried putting me on oxygen and when that didn’t really help she finally tried turning the pitocin off completely. This seemed to help Nora some since it slowed down the contractions but I couldn’t really progress much without the pitocin to keep the contractions going. I asked if we should maybe just do a c-section since I was only dilated to 5cm and Nora was already so stressed out by the labor. The nurse said that we wouldn’t need a c-section unless there was an emergency. I told her I didn’t want to wait until there was an emergency. I didn’t care about the delivery, vaginal or c-section, I just wanted my baby to be alive. She told me that Nora would be alive, but my anxiety was rising, as was Josh’s. The nurse restarted the pitocin and Nora did not like the stronger contractions. Her heart rate slowed down, boom..boom..boom……..boom……………..boom…………………………boom, below 50 beats per minute. Then it stopped altogether. We could not find her heart beat. The nurse moved the monitor around and around on my belly. Her face was calm but I sensed panic just under the surface. I looked at Josh in despair and he just watched, frozen in his seat. “Turn on your left side” said the nurse, and I turned and she searched and couldn’t find anything. “Turn on your right side” and I turned and she searched and found no sign of life. I lay flat on my back and she finally found a slow heart beat, boom………………….boom…………….boom……..boom. We were SO relieved to hear that sound! I insisted on having a c-section. I wanted Nora OUT. I wanted her alive. The nurse said it wasn’t necessary. I said I wanted to talk to the doctor. My OB wasn’t there. He and I had discussed this very scenario several times during the office visits and we both agreed that if Nora showed any signs of distress we would do a c-section. I wished so badly for him to be there. Another contraction came on strong and Nora’s heart beat slowed down…below 50…then 0. When Lucy was dying and they put me on the monitor her heart rate was in the sixties. The doctors said she was dying and there was nothing they could do. Now Nora’s heart rate was dipping below 50 and disappearing. I started to panic. The nurse also seemed rattled and rushed over to the phone, called an emergency code and several people rushed into the room. “Flip onto your left side, your right side, lay flat on your back, sit up…” They searched and searched with the monitor and couldn’t find her heartbeat. “Oh Jesus, let her live. Please.” I prayed silently and Josh and I locked eyes again. We finally heard Nora’s heart rate come back up. I wept and told them to get the doctor in there NOW. I wanted a c-section. I asked if they remembered that it was a high risk pregnancy, that Nora could be anemic and stressed out, or what if the cord was around her neck? “Oh, the cord is usually around the neck and it’s fine.” they said. I asked why we were risking my daughter’s life just to avoid a c-section. It didn’t make sense and it was against my wishes. I asked what their plan was if her heart beat didn’t come back next time and they said they would rush me into the OR for an emergency c-section and then try to revive her. I asked them why we should wait until her heart stops to get her out?! I was FRANTIC. Four women stood around the bed and I pointed at them, with tears streaming down my face and said, “I am the one who has to live with a dead baby if she dies. Not YOU or YOU or YOU or YOU. None of you have to live with the consequences if she dies, but I do. She is going to die if we don’t do something!” (I am thankful for the nurses’ compassion and patience with me now looking back, but at the time I was extremely frustrated by their lack of action.)
The next contraction came on strong and her heart slowed down. I felt a lot of pressure down low and I knew it was her head. I told them I think she’s crowning and they said she couldn’t be since they just checked me less than an hour ago and I was only 5 centimeters dilated. I told them to check. One of the nurses did and sprang into action, “You’re fully dilated and she’s crowning!” They called the doctors, the pediatrician, the NICU team and they told me NOT to push. I shouldn’t push until the NICU team and pediatrician were in there. They finally made it, a contraction came on and her heart beat disappeared and I pushed with all my might and she was out, just like that. She was beautiful and dark purple. They put her on my chest and rubbed her and she took a breath, thank God.
Her face was so perfect and Josh and I cried with joy and she cried with life. They took her to the little warmer to assess her and Josh said her color changed as she screamed from deep purple to new baby pink.
Relief flooded my body, so much relief. Even now, a week later, I still feel that relief coursing through my body. A huge weight of anxiety has been lifted and I feel so light. Nora weighed 6 pounds 15 ounces and was 20 inches long. Besides Lucy, she is my tiniest baby. Her head was perfectly round because she had been in the birth canal for such a short time. Her head didn’t have time to mold into the typical cone shape. She was so dainty and perfect and seeing Josh gaze at her with those eyes full of love was the best thing ever.
The NICU team let us hold her for a couple minutes and take pictures but had to take her away right after that. They waited by my bedside to whisk her away.
They took Nora up to the NICU floor above ours and we weren’t allowed to go with her. Only after they finished their assessment and made sure she was stabilized were we allowed to go visit her. It was surreal to be in the quiet hospital room right after giving birth with no baby around. My parents and the boys came in afterwards but there was no baby to see. They waited for a while but it was late so they left without seeing her. Josh and I were so thrilled that she had arrived alive that we really didn’t mind her being whisked off to the NICU. All of her test results were good but they kept her in the NICU for a day and a night just to monitor her. Josh pushed me in the wheelchair up to the NICU floor every 2-3 hours so I could breastfeed her. We were so sleep deprived but full of joy and thanksgiving. Our Nora Juliet was here.
We chose the name Nora because it means “light” just like Lucy. When Lucy died it felt like we had been plunged into the darkness; deep, mournful darkness. The kind of darkness that envelopes your entire life and tries to suck out your hope and joy. Nora has brought light and hope back into our lives. She owes her life to her sister. Nora is alive because of Lucy. After Lucy died we knew the true danger of my antibodies and we knew that we had to take drastic measures if we wanted our next baby to live. When I was pregnant with Lucy I asked my doctors if maybe we should try plasmapheresis and IVIG. They told me I didn’t need it and it probably wouldn’t work anyway since it was still considered experimental. They also said it was only offered to women who had already lost a baby. I had to wait until my baby died to be eligible for the treatment (which is horrible.) Because Lucy died I was able to have plasmapheresis and IVIG with Nora and we knew we needed to go to Texas so that Dr. Moise could take care of us. It saved her life. If Nora had come first and Lucy second, it would be Nora in heaven and Lucy in my arms. Anyway, we chose Nora to honor Lucy (and because we think it is beautiful.) Later in the pregnancy, I felt like God gave me a verse and it was another sign that Nora was the perfect name. It is the sweetest verse and it humbled me to accept what God was telling me.
Psalm 91:14-16 Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.
The name Nora also means “honor.” God has rescued me (as well as Nora) and has honored me by giving me this gift, my daughter. I am honored to be her mother. Josh and I struggled with her middle name. We had several options but always came back to Juliet. We felt a lot of pressure at first to give a weighty, monumental name since her life is such a miracle, but in the end we gave ourselves permission to use the name “Juliet” simply because we loved it and thought it was pretty. It also sounds like joy and jubilee, the way we feel when we think about our Nora Juliet.
Liam and Asher were finally able to meet Nora the next day. It was right after they had released her from the NICU and brought her down to my room. Having her there with me and seeing her brothers hold her for the first time was one of my favorite moments of my life.
Liam said, “I can’t believe we actually, FINALLY got our baby. I never thought she would come.” He is still in disbelief. For as long as he can remember, we have been praying every night for God to give us a baby we can keep. After Lucy died Liam prayed fervently for “a baby who can sleep in her bed and not in heaven.” I overheard him several times crying in his little toddler bed for his baby sister, for the one who died in Mommy’s belly and for the one that was going to come and stay (he was sure of it.) He also prayed confidently for God to “give Mommy two lines on her test.” He knew that two lines meant a baby was in my belly. That was two years ago and baby Nora is finally here. Thank you, Jesus, for your goodness and faithfulness.
Asher is especially thrilled to be a big brother. Right after he met Nora for the first time he looked up at me with desperate eyes and said, “Mommy, you’re not going to sell her are you?” Ever since I sold some of his old toys in our adoption yard sale fundraiser he has been terrified that I will sell all of his most valuable things. He asked if Nora would still be there tomorrow. I told him she wasn’t going anywhere. He asks regularly if she will still be in our family, still be our baby in a day or in a week. I don’t blame him for being scared and wary of our promises. I have told him three times now that he was getting a baby sister. This time it actually happened and he is very afraid of losing his “baby Nowa.” He also worries that I will possibly replace her with another baby one day. I told him that she will never be replaced by anybody. Poor little guy. Asher is so smitten with Nora. When he first saw her he examined all of her tiny fingers and toes and shouted, “Oh look! She has LEGS.”
We still can’t believe that our Nora is here, alive and breathing. So many times I have envisioned holding her on my chest, smelling her baby skin and feeling her body move up and down with each breath. It was one of the things I missed most when Lucy died. The thought of Lucy never being on my chest alive has been such a painful thought. But I finally was able to hold my Nora there and soak her in.
I was discharged from the hospital after two nights and Nora was discharged with me! All of her blood work was great and she never had any medical intervention at all, just monitoring. We got to take her home with us…more than I ever could have wished for.
Thank you all for sticking with us on this long journey, for praying for us and encouraging us along the way. You have played a HUGE part in getting Nora here safely and we wish we could thank each of you in person. I have read every single comment on my blog and I appreciate all of them. It means so much to me to be able to celebrate her arrival with you all and to see God glorified through this tiny little six pound baby. Please continue to pray for Nora as she is expected to start getting anemic over the next few weeks (my antibodies can stay in her system for up to six weeks.) She has her first appointment with the pediatric hematologist tomorrow morning. I’ll update everybody after her blood results are in.